Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

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Rob Ford’s Growing Pains

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Since his commanding election win on Monday night much ink—be-it digital, print or otherwise—has been spilled chronicling the varying elements behind and emanating from the Etobicoke councilor’s win. While many of these stories have either applauded Ford’s win, his campaign strategy or (perhaps most vociferously) bemoaned his election, neither of these story lines interest me much.

Rob Ford has won. He ran a disciplined, well-organized campaign and garnered the trust of the majority of voters in Toronto. Congratulations to him and his team and it is time for his detractors to deal with it.

What has interested me, however, is something that doesn’t appear to have gained much attention from the mainstream press and/or popular pundits: how will Rob Ford adapt to his new role as the mayor of the largest city in Canada?

Throughout the campaign Ford stuck to his simple and digestible message about fiscal restraint, ‘stopping the gravy train’ and reasserting ‘respect for the taxpayer’. Now that the campaign is over, I’m fascinated how Mayor-elect (and soon to be Mayor) Ford will grow into his new position at City Hall.

There are many issues of concern at play here. Not only will Ford have to try and form some sort of working consensus at City Hall in order to advance his agenda, he’ll also have to deal with the attention and media onslaught that comes with being the mayor of Toronto. At the same time, he’ll have to work to address the seemingly huge divide between downtown Toronto—where George Smitherman carried the vote—and the surrounding suburbs—where Ford dominated. As urban theorist Richard Florida stated prior to the election, it appears that there are now ‘two Torontos’.

At a time like this, when the global economy is still recovering from an historic downturn and unemployment and citizen dissatisfaction remain high, will Mayor-elect Ford be able to make the transition from ‘outsider’ or ‘rogue’ councilor to the man in charge of our country’s biggest city?

My early impressions are that the growing pains might be a little harsh.

In the interviews that I have seen or heard Ford do since his election, the Mayor-elect has looked overmatched and unaccustomed to his new high profile position.

In an interview with  CBC News Network’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, Solomon—no stranger to interviewing the country’s most high-profiled politicians—seemed to overmatch Ford and make the Mayor Elect uncomfortable.

Ford’s interview on the show seemed more of a campaign stop than a discussion with the incoming mayor of Toronto. Sticking to his campaign script, Ford repeated his mantra of fiscal restraint and respect for the taxpayer. I came away without knowing anything new about Ford and the man who will be running this city.

The same day, Ford took time to speak with CBC Radio One’s As it Happens and respected journalist Carol Off. In a short 3 minute clip that has now spread across the Internet, Ford seems less concerned with talking to the country’s national public broadcaster than attending to his role of football coach. Of course, Ford has been a dedicated coach and his players and team deserve his attention. However, by not taking a brief amount of time to step aside and deal with his taxpayer funded responsibilities as city politician, Ford has left himself open to criticism and embarrassment.

I find it hard to believe that the mayor elect of London would have the same response to doing an interview with BBC radio.

At the current time, when the city is divided and so many areas need attention I hope that Rob Ford will get over his growing pains quickly and assume a position that all Torontonians can be proud of. It is far too important for this city to not address the growing disparities between downtown and the suburbs and the number of infrastructure, economic and social concerns that plague us all.

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